Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Echoes of Bradbury and the summers we all miss

In a pre-Civil Rights small Alabama town, a 12 yr old boy finds his life thrown into chaos when a strange murder haunts his father. Monsters and mysteries of all sorts, including of the human variety, make this a book you'll never tire of.

When I want to become younger, a boy again, there are a few books on my shelf that transform me, take me back to an age when I believed anything could happen. Boy's Life by Robert McCammon is one of them.

McCammon, who has written some terrific horror novels (Stinger, Swan's Song), has taken every kid's daydreams, sprinkled them with a few nightmares, and bound them between a cover to create Boy's Life. I'm glad Pocket has reprinted this terrific book. Go read it. Now.

What, you want more details? Fine.

In Zephyr, Alabama, the year is 1964, and 12-year-old Cory Mackenson one day helps his father with his milk route (yes, once upon a time people actually delivered milk as opposed to cows hidden in the sub-basements of your local supermarkets). Father and son watch a car drive straight into the (rumored) bottomless depths of the local lake with the driver still inside. Cory's father dives in to rescue the driver and comes back to the surface alone. He admits to Cory that the driver was naked and handcuffed to the steering wheel.

The memory of seeing the body in the car begins to eat away at Cory's father bit by bit as he tries to figure out who was responsible and why did this murder happen.
And Cory, who had never known what Evil with a capital E was, begins to learn. This is Alabama before the Civil Rights Movement, and several characters in the book are connected with the Ku Klux Klan. But don't think the book gets preachy about desegregation. No, McCammon is a better writer than that.

Mystery not enough? Oh, there's more.

In Zephyr, like childhood, magic lurks at the edges of our vision. In these pages readers meet Old Moses, an immense gator prowls the river, the last surviving triceratops, wrestlers who bear an uncanny resemblance to moviedom's most famous monsters, spirits of the dead, and the greatest bicycle a kid could ever own. Ray Bradbury could not do better. And hasn't.

Convinced? You should be. If this book is not already on your night table waiting to be read then you're missing out in of the greatest reads. Ever.

What I adore about this book is that it offers all of us the chance to recall that greatest summer of our life, before we get too old to see wonders, when your friends meant the world to you, and your father meant even more.


Glimmer said...

Thank you for this review. I have the book and now realize the timing is right for my 16-year-old son to read it. He is D.C.-born and raised (well, we did drive him over the river to Arlington, VA the day after he was born). But he has spent plenty of time in Alabama, courtesy of mother dearest. So he will appreciate the setting. And he asks me plenty of questions about that era.

And yes, we do miss those summers, which is why I used to take my son to Alabama the second he was out of school. The summers are not the same here. But in many ways, they ARE the same down there. At least in places like Hazel Green, AL, which is still in an odd time warp of sorts, not where you can see it, but back off the "main road."

Steve Berman said...

Glimmer, I hope your 16 yr old enjoys the book. And if it makes him asks questions as to Alabama history, even better.